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Women of the Grenada Revolution celebrated at London event

REMEMBERING THE REVOLUTION: Patsy Cummings, second right, and Jacqueline Mckenzie, far right, both attended the event

AHEAD OF International Women’s Day, powerful women from the Caribbean have been celebrated at a special event in London.

The women of the 1979 Grenadian revolution were the focus of Grenada Forward Ever’s (GFE) gathering, Grenada: Big Sistas of the Revolution, which was held at Unite the Union on Friday March 1.

Throughout the evening, which was chaired by Jean Tate, extracts from Phyllis Coard’s recently published book Unchained: A Caribbean Woman’s Journey Through Invasion, Incarceration and Liberation and poetry inspired by the revolution were shared with the audience.

Coard, the leader of the Grenada National Women’s Organisation, was a prominent figure in the revolution. She was the only woman among the Grenada 17, the group of Grenadians imprisoned, and was subjected to particularly harsh treatment.

She was held in solitary confinement for extended periods, and despite the impact the isolation took on her physical and mental health, she was denied medical assistance for years.

PICTURED: Patsy Cummings

Among the Grenada National Women’s Organisation’s achievements were securing equal pay, maternity leave, free milk and free school meals.

At Grenada: Big Sistas of the Revolution, speakers included immigration and asylum lawyer Jacqueline Mckenzie, who has been representing many of the high profile members of the Windrush Generation affected by the immigration scandal, Croydon councillor Patsy Cummings and Selwyn Strachan, who was a member of the Provisional Revolutionary Government and one of the founders of the New Jewel Movement.

Strachan, who was also one of the Grenada 17, spent 26 years imprisoned.

While there was considerable time devoted to reflecting on the past and the legacy of the Grenadian revolution, the event also encouraged the audience to look towards affecting change now and in the future.

During her speech, Cummings proudly told the audience that she comes from the “tradition of strong black women” and that she is still waiting for a female prime minister in Grenada before saying: “I’m going to make that happen.”

Continuing the theme of creating change, she called on the audience to ask, “what are we doing to empower ourselves?” She added that we need to be everywhere, citing school governorship and think tanks as some of the areas where black representation needs to increase.

Coard, who is currently unwell, sent a message to be read out in her absence.

“Despite the US invasion of Grenada, many Grenadian women still possess the skills, confidence and pride they acquired during the revolution.

“Today, we must maintain solidarity with women all over the world. In countries on every continent, we are aware of women of every colour, caste, class and religion who suffer daily, simply because they are women.

“So it’s up to women – and conscious men – to assist both our sisters and our brothers, to make a world that works for everyone,” she said.

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